The ability for prison inmates to secretly communicate with the outside world poses a danger to ordinary citizens and threatens public safety. Ex-corrections officer, Robert Johnson, knows that danger all too well. In March 2010, Johnson was the victim of an attempt on his life in his home in South Carolina. The attack in which Johnson was shot six times in the stomach and the chest was ordered and paid for by an inmate using a cell phone that had been smuggled to him in prison. Johnson survived the attack, but there have been other examples, such as that of Kendarius Edward, a nine-month-old baby targeted because of a dispute with his uncle, whose murder was contracted using a contraband cell phone. Fortunately, new technology is being used to detect and disrupt contraband cell phone usage.
Deployed in several correctional facilities in the U.S., Securus Technologies’ Wireless Containment Solution (WCS) uses cellular technology to block outgoing cell signals to contraband cell phones. WCS works by broadcasting a powerful signal that mimics the frequency range of national cellular carriers to attract the contraband cell phones. Once connected all calls are intercepted allowing the prison staff to monitor and determine what calls are allowed to go through and which calls to block. The system maintains a list of allowed numbers and numbers that are unauthorized.
Deployment of systems like Securus’ WCS continues to increase as the government makes way for correctional facilities to leverage contraband interdiction technology. The FCC, which regulates the broadcast frequencies uses by cell phone providers voted in March of 2017 to simplify the process prisons are required to follow to obtain and deploy the technology.
Fortunately, the story of Robert Johnson doesn’t end with his horrific shooting. He now works as a consultant for Securus Technologies where he promotes and advocates for the adoption of the technology that could have possibly prevented the attempt on his life.